You’re in for a shock

The unsustainable high cost of long-term care is the subject of a column in The Guardian.

The Prime Minister seems to have promised to address the problem, as the earlier projected amount needed to live ten years after retirement falls short. The £72,000 cap proposed for each person’s spending before the state kicks in to supplement cost of care needs to be doubled to cover both the “care’ and the overlooked cost of  “hotel accommodation”  (“the room itself, the bed, the food, the heating”) where the care is given. Originally, the gap  was expected to be filled by decent insurance policies. However, the commentator says, the private sector has “taken fright.”[i]

 033Sound familiar?

I am reading Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, a novel published in 1971,  by the English author Elizabeth Taylor. If the unheralded movie (Joan Plowright as Mrs. P., 2005) passed you by, you might want to have a go at the illuminating story of the penultimate digs for middle class widows in London at that time. Taylor, a wicked observer of small details, including emotions, focuses on the constricted life in a residential hotel on Cromwell Rd., not far from the Natural History and Victoria & Albert Museums (PHOTO). Our featured character finds excitement in a young aspiring novelist, Ludo, who picks her up from the pavement one slippery day, and replaces her inattentive grandson in her life.

The canon of Taylor seems to have been revived, perhaps because so many more readers now are like many of her characters in their 60s. What is of special interest to me and my kind (70+) is that the age one moves from a respectable and respectful residential hotel (or “retirement community”) is considerably later than when this book was written. When one of the older ladies becomes incontinent, she must move. Above all, no one must die at the Claremont.

Amidst the tragi-comedy, Taylor has skewered some of the social assets of London. I particularly like a scene where Mrs. Palfrey and Mrs. Burton are discussing the boredom of the meat dishes. Mrs. B. says veal is a change, but expensive, as she had seen some in Harrod’s the day before. She says:

 “I think the butchery department is one of the sights of London – and those marble beds for the fish to lie in state on! Why, I’d rather go there than the national gallery. The way they arrange their scallops and suchlike.”

Books must endThe lone male resident later declares, “It’s a trivial little life.” He wants to move back to a house of his own. That, of course, would be unlikely today, as many “retirees’ have had to sell their homes to afford the extra decade of their lives.




[i] “Think there’s a cap on elderly care costs? Think again. You’re in for a shock

The charge for our elderly relatives could be several times higher than the £72,000 we’ve been told,” Jackie Ashley, The Guardian, January 27, 2014.


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